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Traveling with kids can be so stressful and overwhelming. It is especially so when you have more luggage than you can carry and don’t know how to pair down. I’ve created a list of simple, practical ways to lighten your load and still have everything you need for traveling with kiddos!

1. Check the weather at your destination on a reliable weather source. The key to minimalist packing is planning. Truly, that is what it all comes down to. I have talked to so many people who say that they rarely check the weather before packing for a trip. I understand that. Sometimes it doesn’t even come to mind. The problem with this however, is that it leads to what I call “Just-in-case packing”. Instead of planning your outfits and packing only what is needed you start packing items for “just-in-case” you need them. Do you ever find yourself saying “I’ll bring this in-case its cold”, “i’ll bring this in-case its hot”, “i’ll bring this for if its rainy”… etc? I know I have. Checking the weather and getting an overall idea for what it is supposed to be like during your trip can save you from all of those “just incase” items. Now, obviously the weather forecast isn’t always correct and you don’t want to be caught in a situation where you are desperate. I always bring an extra item for if the weather changes. If I’m packing for a warm weather trip I will always pack a good sweatshirt and if i’m packing for a cold weather trip I always bring a cool top so that I have something in the event that they are needed.


*Disclaimer: This weather example ^^ does not reflect the packing for this blog post. Unfortunately It was just rainy in Jamaica the week I created it!

2. Plan a mini capsule wardrobe. This is along the same lines as not filling up your suitcase with extra “just-in-case” items. For a capsule wardrobe you want to select a few different items that can mix and match together. I’ve included an example from my own wardrobe that shows how just a few shirts, shorts and a couple of accent pieces can create many different outfits that will last well over a week. For my children I try to make sure that they have a few different outfits that can also be mixed and matched. Since I planned this suitcase for a “beach vacation” (Post on winter trip packing coming soon!) I added swimsuits and less “shorts” for both of the kids since children basically live in their suits while at the beach.

I like to go with a couple of colors (as you’ll probably notice, over time… primary colors are my jam ;] ) that work well together so that even with just a few pieces I can create multiple looks!

3. Avoid packing so that you don’t have to do laundry. Yet another way to avoid unnecessary items. As a mom I am always tempted to bring 12 different outfits for my son because I just know he’ll get them dirty. However, whenever I pack this way I end up getting home from my trip and unpacking a bunch of folded, unused clothes and I have basically never been in a situation where I didnt have access to a washing machine. If you are not in a house where one is available there are always laundromats for emergent situations. It will save so much space to only pack what you and your children absolutely need for your trip. I also typically workout and like to have my running shoes and an athletic outfit that I can sweat in. I don’t like adding to my suitcase by bringing multiple workout outfits and don’t want to wash those clothes every time I sweat in them so when I come back from a run I will rinse them (well) in water and hang them to dry. This does the trick for multiple uses… until it doesnt! At that point I will throw a load in the wash.

4. Wear bulkier your clothing items on the plane. Try to wear your bulkier items on your travel days so that you can save the space in your bag. I normally wear my running shoes and bring my sweatshirt on the plane with me. My kids and I are prone to getting cold while flying so bringing our bulky sweatshirts with us is normally necessary, anyway.

Note: Our sweaters/jackets and bulky shoes are packed for our “Travel Day” outfits

5. Don’t pack things that you can buy on the other end. If you have kids in diapers, only bring the number of diapers you need for traveling in your carry-on and pick some up at the store when you get to your destination. This goes for baby wipes (and pads and tampons!) as well. Either travel with one full pack of wipes to use for the duration of your trip or pick some up at your destination. This clears so much room and weight in your suitcase!

6. Pack small items inside other items (ie: socks inside shoes.) You’ll see in my little stop-motion video that I put my son’s TOMS inside the wings of his puddle jumper. Finding little nooks and crannys that you can stick small items in will help you utilize all the space in your suitcase and keep those items from bulking up the main compartment.

7. Go through your make-up bag and only bring what you need. For instance I bring concealer, foundation, blush, mascara, an eyeliner pencil and a couple of small eyeshadows. I usually put these small items in a quart size bag and add them to my purse or diaper bag. It takes up very little space and you’ll be set to go through security with your liquids and powders!

8. Pack any meds you may need in the compartments of a medicine divider. I normally bring ibuprofen and any other prescription meds that I, my kids or my husband might need. Instead of dividing the meds from day to day I just add the different types of meds to different compartments and then label. This saves you from having a giant bag of medicine bottles taking up half of the room in your purse/carry-on/suitcase. I do bring a bottle of liquid children’s Tylenol and children’s Benadryl with syringes, as well. I place these in my “personal item” because with kids you just never know! They are compact and i’m normally thankful that I brought them!

9. Vacuum seal your undergarments and small clothing items. Fold your undergarments such as underwear, sports bras, socks, etc. as small and tightly as you can. Place them in a gallon size ziplock bag and kneel on it. This forces air out and when you zip it back up you’ve created a vacuum seal that makes these items as compact as possible. For one week trips I can normally get all of my kids and my own undergarments in one ziplock bag but I have to add another for longer trips. For those who travel frequently or go on long trips you can purchase “packing cubes” that help to keep your clothing compact and nice and organized as you travel from day to day and week to week.

10. Invest in a good toiletry bag. I think the best are the ones with different compartments that fold up. Mine is by “31 Gifts” and you can get similar ones here. These help keep everything together and as compact as possible once folded up. Especially if you grab travel sized toiletries.

11. Have your kids (2+) bring their own personal item. Get a little tot-sized backpack and add an empty water bottle, a few toys or a tablet and even a few snacks. It will free up some space in your own bag and almost all kids like having a little backpack and feeling like a grown up so it’s a win-win! Do make sure that it isn’t too heavy, though. You don’t want them complaining non-stop or having sore shoulders at the end of the day!

I’m sure you’ll notice that I didn’t talk about packing for daddy/hubby. My husband also packs a capsule-style wardrobe and can normally fit all of his stuff in his carry-on backpack. He follows the same guidelines that I do and without packing for kids he easily packs everything that he needs in his pack. It makes such a difference to only have 1 small suitcase and carry-on(s) while traveling with kids. Having to check a stroller and carseats, Possibly even a pack and play… the more you can consolidate the better! You mamas know how it goes! These tips and tricks have changed the travel game for me and I hope that they are helpful for you as you plan your next getaway!

Blessings and Godspeed in your journey,

The Carry-on Mama

2 comments on “11 Tips for Minimalist Packing (with kids!)

  1. Katie Beeh says:

    Good advice. I always try to pack clothes that don’t wrinkle too.


    1. thecarryonmama says:

      Good idea!!


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